If you go under settings in your Android phone, go to “Google”, you’ll immediately see something like this:
If you’re using an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Health, and you’ll see the same thing.
Wait, what? Where the heck did this come from?
Without any announcements from Google or Apple, it would seem like they have secretly installed something without our permission to track us in the cover of “COVID-19 exposure notification”.
People around social media are already forming conspiracy theories around this.
Did your phone act up with no service a few days ago? What if I told you they secretly added #covid19 trackers. iPhones: settings/privacy/health. It’s there. Awake yet?
— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) June 19, 2020
Someone in your Facebook list is probably also freaking out about this right now.
But relax, Google and Apple didn’t do anything like that.
It’s Not A Tracking App
If you click on it, it would ask you to “install or finish setting up a participating app”.
By clicking on “Learn More”, you’ll realise that this would enable you to be notified if you had been in contact with someone who reported having COVID-19, and you need to use Bluetooth and location for this.
The system does not track your location but only uses the location to scan for Bluetooth signals.
That’s right. That sounds exactly like the TraceTogether app.
But it isn’t a TraceTogether app that you can turn on.
In fact, they say that for this to work, you have to download an app from your public health authority first.
It’s A Framework To Allow Tracking Apps From The Government To Work
What is installed in the latest Android/iOs update is an application programming interface (API) that enables a COVID-19 tracing app to function if you install it.
Think of it this way: if a COVID-19 tracing app is a bread, then all Google and iPhone had done is giving governments the flour, yeast, salt and water. Governments still have to put them together.
And if you think that the companies had given us no warning…
Apple And Google Already Said They Were Working On this Since April 2020
Back in April, countless articles, like this one from TheVerge, said that both companies announced a system to track COVID-19 spread using Bluetooth to be released in mid-May.
So actually, this was one month late.
Back on 20 May 2020, they also published a joint statement to clarify this again.
“What we’ve built is not an app – rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better.”
So no, they didn’t secretly install anything.
Which means that if they were spying on us, they were openly doing it. Not secretly.
A key difference there.
In TheVerge’s article, they did also say that they will work on building a tracing functionality after the API is completed into the underlying operating system, optionally available to everyone with iOs or Android phones.
It’s not exactly clear what this “tracing functionality” means, but if you’re worried about anything, that’s that one that you should be thinking about.
And considering how much tech companies already know about us, a Bluetooth contact tracing for COVID-19 seems harmless in comparison.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with the FBI agents watching me.
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